Food Spending Triggers

Food Spending Triggers

Why I spend so much money on food:

Last weekend, I went on a trip to see my friend in San Diego. I knew about this trip for a long time. I had a sinking fund set up and had been contributing to it for at least 6 months prior. I was excited for the trip and ready to spend the money that I had been setting aside for so long. It was nice to know that I could enjoy my trip without the guilty feeling that comes when you get home and look at your credit card statement. 

However, I had NOT anticipated how the trip would impact my spending once I got back home. Next time, I will be sure to prepare for the week I get home ahead of time or pad my budget a little extra for more takeout spending. 

The thing about food is that it is so much more than just giving our bodies energy. It’s also about the taste, smells, aromas, the feelings, the memories that are associated with the food we eat. This is why saving money on food is so hard because it is not just about the food, it is so much more. Combine our emotional dependency on food with the instant gratification of being able to order almost ANY type of food from a food delivery app and it’s a recipe for disaster! 

Knowing your food spending triggers can help you be more conscious of why you are ordering out when you know perfectly well you have food in the fridge to be cooked. This is the first step to being able to take control of these triggers and overcome impulse spending on takeout. 

This experience made me think about what my food spending triggers are, particularly with getting take out on an impulse. 

These are my top reasons for spending money on food. Comment below to tell me about your impulse spending on food triggers!

  1. Stress:
Stress, Food Spending Triggers

Stress is actually a scientific response to your body releasing cortisol which is a hormone that signals your brain to crave energy as part of the fight or flight response. Not only does your body want energy, but it wants something that it can get energy fast. Think sugar! Sugar or carbs is what your body is going to crave. Sugar, salty or fatty foods. If you know your going to have a stressful week at work or an especially busy weekend, you might want to consider planning in a meal that will satisfy this craving so you don’t end up heading to that fast food restaurant or ordering food. (Click here to see Harvard’s explanation of the effects of stress and eating).

2. Lack of sleep: Similar to stress, if your body does not get enough sleep, it does not function properly which can cause you to crave certain foods. The connection between sleep and eating unhealthy foods is significant. Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including making good dietary decisions. When we don’t get enough sleep, our body’s natural balance gets disrupted, leading to various changes in how we feel and think. Sleep deprivation affects appetite-regulating hormones, increasing hunger (ghrelin) and reducing feelings of fullness (leptin). As a result, inadequate sleep can trigger cravings for unhealthy, high-calorie foods, especially those containing sugar, fat, and carbs. Furthermore, sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function, decision-making, and self-control, making it harder to resist unhealthy food temptations. On the other hand, getting enough sleep promotes overall well-being, improves self-regulation, and encourages healthier eating habits. Therefore, prioritizing quality sleep is crucial for maintaining a positive relationship with food and adopting a healthier diet and reducing food spending triggers.

3. Travel:

Travel, Food Spending Triggeres

As fun and exciting as travel is, man is it exhausting! The process of adjusting from different time zones, sitting in those uncomfortable seats for hours, and just being around that many people can really drain you. Plan ahead the week before travel to have some quick/easy freezer meals on hand for when you get back. 

4. Being hung over: Being hungover hits you harder in your 30s than your 20s! These days if I have a heavy night of drinking I’ll be feeling it for 3-4 days. Not feeling 100% for this many days makes sticking to my meal plans tough. This has caused me to re-think my relationship with alcohol which I have cut back on significantly since my 20s.

5. Being too restrictive usually has the opposite effect. This is why diets tend to not work because the more you deprive yourself the more likely you are to “binge” on the behavior you are trying to avoid. It also causes a psychological effect of feeling like a failure which in turn lessens your motivation to adhere to the behavior. Avoid this by scheduling in take out meals 2-3 times a week if you can. Also making sure you allow yourself to have a more pricey meal option at home that you like such as a steak, fish or lobster. Giving yourself the foods that you enjoy will make this journey more sustainable. If you are trying to live on a rice and beans diet or never going to a restaurant you probably will not change your habits for the long term.

6. Improper planning: If you struggle with impulse food purchases, proper planning is key. It also cuts down on decision fatigue. Try getting in the habit of planning out your meals (and include room for quick meals and/or take out). Planning out your meals reduces decision fatigue and makes it less likely that you will make the same boring meals week after week! Learn about how to plan your meals from the Meal Plan 101 post.

7. Using food as a reward:

ice cream, food spending triggers

I am definitely guilty of this one. If I have had a hard day at work or gotten through a tough project I “reward” myself by getting takeout. While this can be an okay strategy sometimes, it can get out of control if you reward yourself for every little thing. Instead of only rewarding yourself with takeout try other ways to bring yourself joy for your hard work. Try making a list of all of the things that bring you joy (that cost money and don’t cost money). When you finish a hard task and are ready to reward yourself try rewarding yourself with something besides food. This may include going for a walk with your dog, spending some quality time with your children, or exercising. 


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